Toy Fair 2016 Pre-Show Thoughts: Juggling Is Harder This Year, I’d Wager

TF2016I have a box of turtles and dinosaurs here plus some other stuff on the way and that makes me giddy. Yep, NY Toy Fair is here and is going to be fun, but I’m also thinking of stuff outside the box that makes me think things aren’t all rosy and pastel framed goggles. The economy is weird at the moment and anecdotally I know people who just aren’t spending as much money as they used to for a few reasons. Some parents with less disposable income are choosing to give smaller, less expensive gifts or will go for one or two pricier gift meant to last a while (usually something tech-like). Others are going for more educational gifts with an eyeball towards their wee ones doing something else with their futures than becoming future sports or music stars (which is a good thing in my book).

Toy companies catering to collectors with primarily or only high dollar items are probably feeling the pinch even more but need to keep pushing out their premium product because competition for certain big licenses is huge and NOT being there with that hot new collectible means losing money to the other guy or gal who got their goods on the floor. Of course, collectors with space and funds only are about getting that new item first and fast, so that market is more than safe as long as their passion (and shelf space) hold out. Of course, superheroes are hot stuff and will be for a while. But between the retro trend that keeps bringing back older collectibles and the newer licensed goods that command attention of young and old collectors alike, something’s going to give eventually…

One problem I see in this too-social age is the over-branding of licenses to the point that if you’re not 100% in the loop and spending thousands on your favorite themed goodies, you’re seen as not much of a “fan” by certain entities. I tend to write about stuff I like and I like a lot of stuff. But as I’ve aged, I’m more of a big picture guy who carefully chooses what to follow. And when I follow something, it’s more of a long distance glance every so often just to see how things are going, not a blind love glom onto every bit of product. Of course, that’s due to low funds and space limitations (most of my collection is a gigantic game library). But I’ll still give anything that jumps out at me as awesome a plug because great fun is more important than generic grabby attachment that fades over time. Well, in my brainy brain that overthinks these things.

The recent demises of formerly famous NYC high-end retailer FAO Schwarz and the massive low to high-end Toys ‘R Us in Time Square (which was also a hub for many toy and game public and media events in the past) plus a few other factors I’ll see in action at the show this weekend (there’s a public side event at the show with kids allows inside for the first time) makes this year’s show interesting for asking certain questions. Some of those questions may be buzz-killing ones that may only be greeted with optimistic grins and a shove to cheerier topics (good PR people tend to do that and it’s necessary most of the time). But if those questions aren’t already in the minds of some on the floor, that sort of blindness always leads to less that cheery financial news down the road that catches too many people off guard.

I’ll be keeping an eye and ear open during the show for sure, but I’m primarily going to have fun checking out new items, meeting up with old friends and generally enjoying my time on the floor. This stupidly cold weather front that always seems to hit the show as long as I’ve been attending seems to REALLY have it in for attendees with those -25 wind chills expected for tomorrow and Sunday. Whee. Maybe I’ll see if anyone has a kite display so I can make the trip home faster than taking the subway back.

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